Ring, Ring: Calling Card Pitfalls

Elisabeth Leamy's advice and warnings for those buying calling cards.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:10 AM

Sept. 10, 2007 — -- Here's a riddle for you: When is a minute not a minute? When it's on a prepaid calling card.

These cards are typically labeled 30 minutes, 60 minutes and so on. But what you're really paying for is "units" of time on the phone. Usually a calling card minute will buy you a one-minute local phone call. International calls cost more and there are all sorts of other exceptions that can make your "30 minute" card last for less time.

Hidden service fees are the most common complaint. Some card companies charge a connection fee plus taxes and surcharges, which eat into your time. Others charge a minimum number of minutes each time you use the card. Maybe your phone call only lasts 30 seconds but the card company charges you for three minutes.

Some companies debit your card even if your call doesn't go through. You should also know that many prepaid calling cards expire usually a year after the initial use.

Some prepaid calling cards are scams. You may find that the access number is always busy or the PIN doesn't work. When you go to call the company to complain, you discover the customer service number is a 900 number or is always busy or isn't in service.

Cards with unbelievably cheap prices often give you unbelievably bad connections, so you can't even hear the person you're calling. And many consumers have found that the calling card company went out of business before they could use up their card.

If you plan to use a prepaid calling card a lot, call the company before you buy.